It’s tough to increase search traffic–I’ll be the first to say that.
Over 3.5 billion searches happen on Google every day alone. Combine that with the 4 million blog posts published every day, and you’ll soon realize how much effort you’ll need to put into SEO before you start ranking.
(Maybe that overwhelming effort is why 91% of content gets zero organic traffic…)
I would too, if I took those figures at face value.
But I’ve got some good news. I managed to increase search traffic to my blog by 54% by optimizing two things on each page: My SEO meta titles and descriptions.
The even better news? I’m showing you the complete process of how I did it, from start to finish, so you can do the same.
Let’s get started.
First things first: The background story
It’s always good to get the full story of a case study like this, right?
So, let’s start with the fact I never updated my meta titles and descriptions before this… Or did any major overhauls to my previously-published content, for that matter.
It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the organic traffic I was getting through search wasn’t groundbreaking.
I think the word for this is “meh”.
Nobody wants “meh” results (myself included), so I set out to test whether meta titles and descriptions actually made an impact on how well my blog posts performed in SERPs.
Why meta titles and descriptions?
Simple–and quite boring–answer: It’s something I’d never tested before, nor seen any good case studies around the impact it had.
But less than a month after optimizing the meta titles and descriptions for each post, my:
- Search traffic increased by 54%
- Impressions grew by 57%
- Average ranking position jumped 10 places
Here’s the exact data, taken from my Google Search Console account:
Oh, and before I forget (and the #SEOWarriors start petitioning against me on Twitter), let’s add a quick caveat:
I can’t be 100% sure that optimizing my meta tags made this impact.
But, I didn’t do anything else throughout the two weeks I tested this, so I’m pretty confident it’s an accurate result.
My 3-step process for optimizing SEO meta tags to increase organic traffic
I’ll take a 2x increase in search traffic any day of the week.
And since you’re here, I’m guessing you would, too.
Here’s the exact three-step process I used to optimize my meta titles and descriptions to see those results.
1. Use Google Search Console to find poorly-ranking posts
The first thing I did was head over to my Google Search Console performance report. This told me how well each blog post was performing organically, in terms of clicks to my website, impressions, and organic click-through rate (CTR).
I wanted to find which blog posts weren’t doing so great, so I clicked the Pages tab to find my results per blog post:
With the date range set to “past 3 months”, I went through the list and highlighted blog posts that fit this criteria:
- Low organic CTR (less than 2%)
- Declining organic traffic over time, visible by clicking each result in Search Console and viewing the graph
Each blog post that checked both of these boxes was added to my priority list.
2. Do keyword research (again) using Search Console data
By this point, I had a neat list of ~7 blog posts that I needed to re-optimize.
(I know, that doesn’t sound like much–but I only have 12 blog posts across my entire site.)
For each URL, I checked which search terms the blog post was ranking for.
I highlighted search terms that the page gained tons of impressions for, but didn’t convince many people to click through.
This shows the keyword they’re using is relevant to my content (hence why it’s ranking) but it wasn’t convincing enough at pushing people to click through.
Re-optimizing my pages with those keywords I’ve found was a quick win.
I was already ranking for them (somewhere); they just needed a small boost to help with organic CTR before getting pushed up in the SERPs for that query.
3. Optimize the page’s meta title and descriptions
By this point, I had a list of keywords to include in each blog post.
But since I was already ranking for the keywords I’d chosen, I just needed to do one thing: Convince the people who’re searching for this keyword to click my result.
The best way to do that? Optimizing my meta tags.
I’d fallen into the trap of using Yoast to automatically set the meta title as the page’s title, and a sentence from my blog post’s introduction as the meta title.
That’s good–but I needed to create stronger, click-worthy meta titles that stood out in the SERPs.
…That’s not an easy task when you’re competing against 9 other pages. (Or more, if there are paid ads, too.)
The first thing I did was search the keyword I was trying to include, and look at what my competition were using in their meta tags.
They were ranking for that term, so they must be doing something good, right?
Here’s an example:
The majority of results ranking well had the keyword–in this case, “storytelling in content marketing”–towards the start of their meta title.
So, I changed mine from:
‘The 3-Step Guide to Using Storytelling in Content Marketing | Elise Dopson’
to ‘Storytelling in Content Marketing: How to Tell Stories Effectively’
Notice how I ditched my brand name in the final meta title?
Meta titles have a tight character limit (60), so in a bid to get more space, I ditched “best practices” and removed my brand name from each one. That gave me more space to play with–space I could use to add a few more keyword variations.
Meta descriptions, on the other hand, have 158 available characters.
But instead of using Yoast’s suggestion, I used the meta description field for each page to squeeze-in more of the keywords the blog post was ranking for, but not yet seeing high CTR.
Here’s an example of what that could look like:
My newly-optimized meta tags now show people who’re searching for relevant search terms that my blog post is relevant.
…But never being one to settle, I didn’t stop there.
I also used other techniques to optimize my meta tags and boost organic CTR, such as:
- Using power words like “essential” or “ruin”
- Opening with a rhetorical question that my audience might already be asking themselves to help with relatability
- Making the type of content obvious (especially listicles, by using “7 ways to…”)
You could also use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to find tweaks recommended by experts (and algorithms) to improve your chances of standing out in the SERPs.
“Are meta tags still important?”
…That’s a question I hope I’ve answered by this point.
SEO is a confusing world to navigate, but if you’re always focusing on providing value–whether that’s through optimizing your meta tags or refreshing your content to stay relevant–you’ll always benefit.